I know it’s been a while since I’ve updated here. I’ll get back to the recordings again, soon, I hope. Time has evaded me, it seems, and I’ve been spending mornings with my devotional blog, Revelling in the Overflowing Grace of God. Today, I’m giving a book review of Game Six, by Mark Frost.
I can’t say enough good things about this book. Game Six chronicles, in exquisite detail, one of the greatest baseball games ever played. And that’s not just my opinion. “That was the best game I ever played in,” said Pete Rose about game six of the 1975 World Series, even though his team lost the game (p. 290).
I was 17 during the 1975 World Series, watching intently, as it was yet another chance for the Red Sox, my favorite team since I was ten years old, to break their drought of WS championships. I watched in horror, in game three, as Ed Armbrister interfered with Carlton Fisk in the tenth inning, on a bunt play, which led to a Reds victory (most of us believe game six would have been the end of the series if that interference had been called). That non-interference call is listed as one of the ten worst calls in baseball history, by the way. Game six was probably the crowning moment of one of the greatest World Series ever played. I say that, and my team lost. (There are many fans who insist that “we won that Series three games to four…”[p. 374].)
Mark Frost makes this game come alive as he goes through the preparations for the game, and then gives a pitch-by-pitch detailed account of the game. We learn histories of players and managers. I was trying to eat lunch at work when I read the account of Luis Tiant finally seeing his father again after over a decade of separation as his father was stuck in Cuba, unable to leave because of the tyrant, Fidel Castro. It’s hard to eat lunch when you’re crying. I gained a new respect for manager Sparky Anderson, who was a giant among men when it comes to the great game of baseball. His death, almost two years ago, makes it even that much more emotional.
I laughed, I cried, I cheered. Then I was sad again, when Frost continues the story, and goes into many of the things that happened after this World Series, including the advent of free agency. I almost wish he had left that out of the book. He also chronicles that horrible strike of 1994, the one that eliminated the World Series for the first time in history. I remember how angry I was at that strike. I didn’t pay to attend a baseball game for at least 5-6 years after that. I almost stopped paying attention at all. But my anger and disappointment doesn’t hold a candle to Tony Kubek’s. Kubek was calling games for the Yankees’ TV station at the time. Here’s what Frost says about that. “When the strike ended the 1994 season, Tony Kubek wrote acting commissioner Bud Selig a sixteen-page letter detailing the many ways in which he believed the sport had lost its way, and offered solutions for how he thought those critical problems could be addressed. Selig never answered him.
“Kubek resigned from the Yankees that winter and never called another baseball game; he’s never even watched one since, so distraught is he at what has happened to the game he loved, a disaster for which he holds players and owners equally accountable.” (p. 372)
To end this on a better note, I can’t really review this without including Frost’s account of the game winning home run, that even that has become an institution in the game of baseball.
Bench signaled for the sinker, inside, and Darcy delivered. It didn’t have his usual hard kick, cutting low and inside, and probably would have finished out of the zone, a pitch most hitters couldn’t do much with, but Pudge Fisk, unusual for such a tall right-handed man, was a notorious inside/low-ball pull hitter, and that, finally, was Darcy’s one and only mistake.
Fisk saw it, liked it, reached down, and crushed it.
In the broadcast truck, director Harry Coyle tried to hail his left field cameraman, Lou Gerard, stationed inside the Green Monster scoreboard, on his headset. Fisk’s ball was headed straight down the left field line, a high towering shot, exactly the kind of flight path they’d planted a camera in there to pan up and capture. Gerard, at that moment, stood frozen in terror at his post, staring down at the biggest rat he’d ever seen in his life–the size of a frickin’ housecat–that had just crawled across his foot. Half-paralyzed with fright, he couldn’t swing his camera around; he held the close-up he’d established on Fisk.
Fred Lynn jumped up from the on-deck circle to align himself with the left field foul line, the first person in the park to realize this was going to turn out well; he jumped straight into the air. As the ball reached the apex of its flight, it began to hook to the left, toward the yellow foul pole and screen. With his great bat speed, and the way he jumped on inside pitches, Fisk hit dozens of foul “home runs” a year, and this might be another one; and in any other ballpark in baseball, absent the short left field wall, it undoubtedly would have been.
The crowd rose to its feet.
Carlton Fisk didn’t run. He turned sideways and took three abbreviated hops down the first base line, wildly waving his arms at the ball like a kid in a Little League game, urging, willing, begging it to stay fair.
Pete Rose turned and sprinted down the left field line, following the flight of the ball toward the pole, willing it to turn foul, and never saw Fisk’s dance toward first.
Tony Kubek stepped forward right into the Reds dugout, alongside Sparky and everyone else in the club, all of them craning their necks forward to keep the ball in sight.
Eyes fixed on the training room television, Luis Tiant [starting pitcher for the game] sat up in the whirlpool. Hearing the deep rumbling about to crescendo in Fenway all the way down in the depths of the old building, Bill Lee jumped off the training table nearby and started shouting.
In the owner’s box, Tom Yawkey and Duffy Lewis stood up, their hands reaching out for each other.
In the broadcast booth, Dick Stockton, taking his turn back on play-by-play, his voice hoarse with emotion as he narrated: “There it goes, a long drive, if it stays fair…”
Thirty-five thousand people locked in a suspended passage of time–less than four seconds by the clock–and then, yes, the ball crashed off the screen near the very top of the left field foul pole.
“…home run!” finished Stockton, then wisely realized that the best thing now was to sit back and let the magic of the moment speak for itself.
Watch it HERE.
In spite of the somewhat “downer” of an ending, I proclaim that Game Six is the best book on baseball that I have ever read. Mark Frost hath rendered a masterpiece. If you like baseball…no, if you LOVE baseball, you should read this book, no matter who your favorite team is.